People Party of Dominica (PPOD) would like to address recent comments made by Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit who described criticism of the island’s citizenship by investment program (CBI) as economic terrorism after he returned to the island from a promotional trip to four countries.
Although there is no internationally agreed upon definition of the term “terrorism” such term should not be taken lightly or used out of context in order to suit ones agenda for political gain. One could also derive from the Prime Minister’s comments that his use of the term is bordering the same act he has used to describe his criticizers as a use to intimidate and quash dissent for political gain or to advance a political agenda.
Statements derived from a DNO article quoted below gave the Prime Minister’s explanation for such comments.
“Skerrit said more than 90 percent of the island’s capital project this year is being funded directly from and through the CBI Program. And this is a program that opposition parliamentarians are on social media deriding and putting up for public ridicule,” he remarked. “When you destroy this goose, what other specimen of bird will they bring forward to underwrite the cost of developing this country? What is the alternative? That we should tax the country to raise $271-million to finance the budget? What is the alternative? How many of us can pay more taxes in Dominica? How many of us are able to pay taxes in Dominica to finance the development of our country?””
To the less informed populace this may seem to be a legitimate response to a country struggling to meet its development needs. However, PPOD views it much differently, this sounds like an administration who has done all they can and is now bankrupt with ideas for sustainable development of a country in these modern times.
Although the CBI program brings in a major portion of the income to the island, the benefits of such investment are not directly felt by the local population on the island. Coupled with the lack of transparency surrounding the program and its funds, it should be of no surprise to the Prime Minister that criticism would arise.
The Island of Dominica is burdened by a lack of cash flow, lack of money circulation and lack of incentives for businesses to generate income to create higher monetary circulation into the country. A more forward thinking government should invest funds from the CBI program into sustainable projects to infuse income into the country. As its original purported purpose should be to invest into different economic programs to ignite entrepreneurship and private sector growth.
Currently is it said that the majority of products are affordable to the average Dominicans until it enters the port and Duty system, at which point affordability is either lessened or dissolved altogether. This way of governance stifles economic growth and prevents sustainable development. However the dependence on these taxes without creating other avenues for revenue is not only short sighted, some may see it as deliberate deprivation aimed at creating a populace dependent on assistance, where a government is praised for negligible achievements, short advances and moreover, simply doing what they were put in power to do, their job.
The CBI program should be a driver of growth not maintenance. Failing industries should be given actual and aggressive attention as opposed to lip service. Negligible relief without addressing the root cause of stagnation is a plan destined to fail. Instead a 360-degree approach needs to be taken in order for the economy, more particularly, the private sector to thrive. One must acknowledge that in business, it is volume that creates wealth and prosperity.
When taxes and duties are too high, volume decreases, individual spending decreases, cash circulation drops along with sales, profits and the collection of taxes. This has a direct correlation to salaries and attracting foreign businesses, skilled workers and diasporas who may want to come back home and invest, but are deterred by the high cost of doing business on island.
Moving forward, we must focus on the average citizen of the country, the people that those in power seem to be out of touch with. Focus on the actual drivers of economic growth in the country and fully understand how a true economic model is supposed to operate, from the bottom up, and not the top down.
The CBI program has worked in many countries, however the management of those funds and how they are infused into the economies and the driving sustainable sectors of the economy is what makes them successful. To use these funds for major projects, some if not most become white elephants because of lack of foresight and proper long-term planning, warrants criticism from not only the opposition, but the general public as well.
To categorize such criticism not Terrorism and not constructive criticism is a blatant form of suppression of a populace to stifle public opinion and freedom of speech.
Opinions expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Dominica News Online or its advertisers.